alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "I've Got A Feeling"


Notes on ... Series #173 (IGAF)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: A Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse  | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Verse' | Outro  |
                  | Verse / Verse' (superimposed) |
                  | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Let It Be", Track 8 (Parlophone 0777-7 46447-2)
  Recorded: 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 27th, 28th, 30th January,
            5th February 1969, Apple Studios
UK-release: 8th May 1970 (LP "Let It Be")
US-release: 18th May 1970 (LP "Let It Be")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note Here we have a medium slow, medium hard bluesy groove whose casual production values belie a unique Beatles experiment with form.
  Next note The single most notable feature here is the alternation and eventual superimposition of two separate songs. It's more than just a medley; the fancy college board musicology term for it is a "quodlibet". Aside from the many learned Baroque specimens of this technique, you can find two very well known examples from the Broadway show repertoire of the late fifties: "West Side Story"s dueling versions of "Tonight" (one by the rival gangs, and one by Maria), and "Music Man"'s alternation of "Goodnight My Someone" with "Seventy Six Trombones".
  Next note The lyrics sport that clever yin/yang alternating wordplay that's a Beatles favorite way back to their early period. Here we find the "Oh yeah/oh no", "wandering/wondering", and "hard year/good year".
  Next note That said, there's a part of me's got a feeling they're really not trying very hard with this one; that what may have started off as a really clever idea is eventually held back from greatness by the relative mediocrity of its raw materials, and the extent to which its two parts fail to contrast to sufficient effect. The two Broadway classics mentioned above, show how it's "really" supposed to be done.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune is quite bluesy. Paul's part has some decent melodic bite and contour. John's part is just plain chatty.
  Next note The harmony is dominated by that Beatlesque neo-Blues quartet of chords: I, IV, V, and flat-VII, supplemented by the cliché of a chromatic stream of diminished triads played over a pedal point.


  Next note The arrangement is for the rooftop live ensemble of four Beatles playing their accustomed instruments, plus Billy Preston on electric piano.
  Next note Paul and John alternate on lead vocal. Lewisohn hints that George is to be heard somewhere on this track, but it's not obvious to my ears; sounds too much like John to me on the backing vocal.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is just four measures long and introduces a vamping figure that characterizes the song overall:
      |5           |6           |5 etc.
      |3           |4           |3 etc.
      |A           |-           |-           |-           |
   A:  I           (IV6/4)       I           (IV6/4)

   [Figure 173.1]
  Next note I feel pretty strongly about treating such a phrase as essentially an harmonic envelope on I, analyzing the D6/4 chords on the alternate measures as mere decoration rather than true root movement.


  Next note The verse is a generous twenty-four measures in length. The words and tune break up the 4 * 6 pattern of the music into an unusual phrasing pattern of 8 + 12 + 4:
       ----------------------- 4X ------------------------
      |A           |-           |-           |-           |
   A:  I           (IV6/4)       I            (IV6/4)

      |A7          |-           |E     G     |D           |
       I                         V     flat-  IV
      |A           |D           |A           |D           |
       I            IV           I            IV

   [Figure 173.2]
  Next note Predictable layering appears on the backing track. There's only two guitars playing from the intro through measure 8 of the first verse. Drums enter in measure 9, the bass finally enters in measure 17 (a lot of self restraint on Paul's part :-)), and the piano shows up in measure 20. Backing vocals are limited in the first and third verses to reinforcement of the "oh yeah" exclamation points, but the second verse has a backing vocal the most of the way through.
  Next note The second half of the verse features a number of Beatles trademarks:
  • flexibly active harmonic rhythm following the long static vamp,
  • the progression from V to flat-VII, with its concommitant cross relation, not to mention the rising chromatic scale in the lead guitar,
  • and the slow triplets introduced in measures 17 - 18.
  Next note Just when you think they're too bored or too stoned to sweat the really small details, you discover that Paul's is painstakingly particular about where he breaks the vamp pattern so that the D-chord sits on its root note, D, instead of the usual pedal point. In the second and third verses, he plays the root note D in the last measure of the second line (measure 8) and on the even measures of the fourth line (measures 14, 16).


  Next note In contrast with the sprawling verse, this bridge is only an intense and rhetorical ten measures long:
   |E           |-           |G           |-           |
    V                         flat-VII

   |D     D6/3  |G     G#dim.|
    IV           flat- vii-o7
   |A           |-           |-           |-           |

   [Figure 173.3]
  Next note Paul impressively both screams the lead vocal and plays a virtuosic bass part at the same time in this section.
  Next note The V to flat-VII progression is repeated in the first part. An upward chromatically walking bassline in the middle part forces an unusual choice of chords for the cadence on I at the end.
  Next note George plays a particularly blistering lead here which ends in the last four measures with an infamous microtonal lick, which in the Twickenham scene from the "Let It Be" film becomes of the focal point of an acutely painful instance of Paul insistently riding poor Hari. Don't remember the exact quote right now, but it's the scene with the George whimpering, "if you don't want me to play ..."


  Next note John's song is more repetitious than Paul's (though he constantly seems to be changing the words if you bother to sample the outtakes) so his verse, while still twenty-four measures long, repeats the familiar vamp phrase six times running. Sound like the D-chord appears in root position here virtually all the time.
    ----------------------- 6X ------------------------
   |A           |D           |A           |D           |
    I            IV           I            IV

   [Figure 173.4]


  Next note Verse' ingeniously segues into what initially sounds just like measure 17 of the original Verse, but which turns out to be a new section that will reappear later to finish the track:
   |A              |b-dim. c-dim. |c#-dim.       |c-dim. b-dim. |
    I               -              -              -

   |A              |-             |-             |-             |
    I              (IV6/4)         I             (IV6/4)

   [Figure 173.5]
  Next note Again, I prefer to treat the chromatically slinking diminished chords over the pedal point as a simple harmonic envelope. The particular effect is quite reminiscent of Dylan's opening track to "Blonde on Blonde", and indeed, there's an outtake of "I've Got A Feeling" in which they segue from here directly into a fragment of "Rainy Day Women ..."
  Next note At the end, the outro consists of the phrase with the diminished chords repeated a full three times before coming to rest on a final I7 chord, this time without the vamp.

Superimposed Verse

  Next note The section in which Paul and John's respective verses are superimposed is only sixteen measures, illustrating a basic principle that when you have a piece with a section iterated many times, you should consider some condensation of the later repeats.
  Next note The following eight-measure pattern is repeated, and notice how, again, Paul is careful with his bass pattern:
   |A           |-           |-           |-           |
    I           (IV6/4)       I           (IV6/4)

   |A           |D           |A           |D           |
    I            IV           I            IV

   [Figure 173.6]

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note There are several alternate versions of "I've Got A Feeling" from January 1969 that are similar to the official version but worth seeking out if only for the scattered touches of John's good natured heckling of Paul and horsing around with his own part of the song.
  Next note There's at least one outtake as early as January 9 at Twickenham showing they had already worked out the form, if not the detailed arrangement, of the official version. This makes the 1/24 run through at Apple, a take which breaks down right after John's solo verse a couple measures into the first Outro, a mystifying choice for what would have been the "Get Back" album.
  Next note Perhaps the most interesting outtake for "I've Got A Feeling" is a primitive 1968 home demo of something John was calling at the time "Everyone [sic!] had a hard year". There are more words there than in the official version, and the lines that are in common don't always follow the same order. Best of all, John uses a I - vi finger picking vamp for the accompaniment which for uncannily resonates with the likes of "Julia"; an odd connection between two songs you'd likely as not ever draw without hearing this recording.
  Alan (081599#173)
Copyright © 1999 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.